The matchup between Richard Montgomery and Northwest was one of three meets from last Tuesday that was postponed due to the tornado warnings in and around Montgomery County. The other two meets were rescheduled for the next day. RM vs. Northwest was pushed out to the following Monday and the location was changed from RM High School to Northwest. For Richard Montgomery, it meant racing just two days after the runners competed on the brutal hills of Hereford.
Richard Montgomery Coach Davy Rogers told his girls team just prior to the race that it was a day for running aggressively and taking risks. He encouraged each girl to take the race out with someone they didn't usually run with. The aggressive style ultimately resulted in many PR's despite the difficult race two days prior.
Northwest Coach Robert Youngblood was more specific with his pre-race instructions. He told each of his top girls which RM runner to stick with. For the most part, Youngblood felt that his girls executed the strategy exactly how they discussed, and the result was a win for Northwest in a very close race.
Lead Northwest runner Naomi Sheppard was the only runner who was hesitant to follow Youngblood's instructions. Her assignment was to run with RM's #1 runner, but for the first half of the race she stayed a few seconds behind RM's #1 and #2 runners, Grace Hanger and freshman Sophie El-Masry.
"Naomi doesn't like to run with the leaders," Youngblood said. "She let them go and tried to make it up at the end of the race."
The race ended on a long 100 yard stretch of the football field. In a kicker's race, the advantage would seemingly go to Sheppard who anchored the state-winning 4x800 relay in the spring, but today in a 5k, Hanger had the better kick down the stretch to hold off her opponent, 20:19 to 20:23.
Each team had runners step up with the absence of a normal top five runner. Every place counted as the teams tied with 28 points each. Northwest won with the better sixth runner.
In the boys race, Northwest sophomore Diego Zarate was not shy about going to the front and challenging RM's Stephen Alexander. Youngblood told Zarate to challenge his opponent by accelerating on the hills, knowing that RM had just raced at Hereford.
The end of the race was nearly identical to that of the girls race but this time the Northwest runner crossed the finish line first. Zarate kicked from one end of the field to the other to hold off Alexander, 16:58 to 17:05.
The RM boys won the team race, 23 to 32.
Zarate, who ended last year with a PR of 18:18, began this season with a PR of 17:17 and has not run slower than 17:44. His aggressive run today resulted in another PR by 19 seconds.
"The sky is the limit for him," Youngblood said.
With a new head coach comes a new home cross country course for Northwest. The course starts with a counter-clockwise loop around the school. Runners loop around the baseball field and make a return trip around the campus in the clockwise direction. There is now a downhill finish prior to re-entering the track stadium as opposed to the old slightly uphill approach to the track from the opposite direction. Youngblood measured it to be 3.1 on the money.
It was a cool day compared to the past few weeks with the temperature right around 65 degrees and humidity around 40%. There was an unusual amount of coughing after the girls race, most likely due to the drier air. Unlike the warm day for racing last Saturday, today finally felt like fall cross country.